DENR earmarks P100M for forest livelihood

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Clark Freeport --- Environment Secretary Ramon Paje ordered the allocation of additional P100 million to support livelihood projects of upland farmers who are beneficiaries of the Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Paje made the announcement before some 1,000 leaders of people’s organizations across the country and their local government partners, non-government organizations (NGO), and donor agencies during the three-day CBFM Practitioners Congress held recently at Clark Freeport here. 

He said the P100 million livelihood funds shall be given to the first 100 people’s organizations organized and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), and who have demonstrated a capacity to sustainably manage livelihood enterprises.  

"By enabling people's organizations to manage enterprises, we help them improve their lives and develop their resilience to climate change while ensuring the availability of our natural resources for the generations to come," he said.

Paje directed DENR Undersecretary for Field Operations Ernesto Adobo to supervise the release of the additional fund and to oversee the creation of a special office at the Forest Management Bureau (FMB) that will exclusively assist people’s organizations who are holders of CBFM Agreements but with expired SEC registration.

He said government programs in the protection of the environment involved mostly community participation, the reason why the country outranked the United States, Australia, South Korea, and Singapore in the recent global Environmental Performance Index (EPI) released by Yale and Columbia Universities.

The EPI studies data to analyze the global community's performance on certain policy issues against environmental pressures, and is used to steer countries toward environmental sustainability. 

Paje asked people's organizations to not only maintain or protect what they have planted, but to also protect the investment of government, adding that the P2.6 billion earmarked for this year's National Greening Program (NGP) shall be released through them in the form of CBFM contracts.

More than half of the identified sites for reforestation under the NGP are found within CBFM areas.

In Central Luzon, 1,500 hectares of NGP sites are directly managed by CBFM people’s organizations who shall also supply at least three million seedlings required by the project in 2012, revealed executive director Ricardo Calderon of DENR Central Luzon.

A total of 5,500 hectares of denuded watersheds in the region have already been planted with various forest trees last year, with additional 12,000 hectares earmarked for planting this year, he added.

Executive Order 263 adopts CBFM as the national strategy to ensure the sustainable development of the country’s forestlands while Executive Order 26 establishes the NGP which aims to reforest 1.5 million hectares of rural and urban areas from 2011 to 2016.

DENR records showed that about six million hectares of forestland are managed by upland communities and business corporations under various forms of stewardship and land tenure arrangements. Of these, 1.6 million hectares are granted to some 1,790 people’s organizations across the country under the CBFM agreements (CBFMA).

Under the CBFM program, qualified people’s organizations are granted resource use rights over forestlands for 25 years, renewable for another 25 years.

Beneficiaries of the program are given agroforestry, community organizing, and entrepreneurship trainings to prepare them for their bigger role as forest stewards and as government partner in sustainable forest management.